As the Board of Fish moves into discussion about early run Kenai Kings, Kevin Delaney (a paid consultant for Kenai River Sportsfishing Association) is withdrawing Proposal 190, and says almost all other proposals are “moot,” since “there is no harvestable surplus” with a very low pre-season forecast.
Delaney says KRSA recommends closing the fishery.
Delaney: “There is no harvestable surplus here. This is different for us than the late run, when there was a harvestable surplus, and a chance to keep fisheries intact and still manage for a sustainable level of escapement. In this particular case, there is no wiggle room. The early run needs to be closed at a level of less than half the SEG.”
That met with some resistance. Set netter Gary Diamond…
Diamond: “I think it should be left to the Department to take a conservative approach to the fishery, and I definitely do not want it closed. There’s lots of tools they could use.”
He says they support an OEG for the sport fishery and management based on the maximum sustained production calculation. He said the lower SEG is too unpredictable, but this year’s forecast is for half the SEG.
Commercial fishermen Paul Shadura, with the Kenai/Soldotna Advisory Committee, said the AC voted to give the Department more flexibility (with unanimous support for Proposal 186), while opposing KRSA’s Proposal 190, which has now been withdrawn.
Several proposals being discussed relate to slot limits.
In a discussion on catch and release mortality, KRSA Executive Director Ricky Gease indicated that the previous study done on catch and release mortality was based on a situation involving multiple hooks and bait. In times of low abundance, hooks and bait are prohibited, which Gease said would lower the mortality rate. He suggested the Department conduct a new study with no hooks or bait.
However, commercial fishermen Todd Smith said that the increase of technology on the river (the ability to track fish and pinpoint spawning holes) has actually increased a fisherman’s ability to catch a king, thereby increasing the likelihood that a single king will be hooked and released multiple times. He also expressed concern that silver salmon fishermen are able to fish around king salmon spawning beds during silver season, while kings are still in the river.
Smith said he’s compared king genetics in the Kenai River and East Side Set Net fisheries, and in the river…
Smith: “You can see a definite difference in a lot of age 5, age 6 fish being harvested and a lot of them are in the sport fishery. And when I was doing the comparisons, you can look, you can see the definite difference that the slot limit made in the harvest of the age 6 fish on the early run. And I encourage you to expand that slot limit, and as a matter of principle, to get rid of the top side of it. There’s no reason we should be keeping trophy fish right now. I do agree that closing the fishery’s harsh, but at the same time, we do need to realize we have a size problem.”